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Let Loose From The Noose: Graeme reviews Amazing #539.

Graeme McMillan

I am completely ignoring everything Bri said in his last post, apart from the comment about Brave and The Bold, because it really is that enjoyable – I’ll get to it later this week, but if you dig superheroes who don’t frown or want to read an enjoyable Supergirl for a change, you should definitely pick it up. Right now, though, I’m going to do an Amy Whitehouse and get back to black.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #539: The main problem with this book isn’t actually really a problem with the book at all, but with all the expectation that’s been created around the thing. For months now, we’ve been told “Spidey puts on his black costume! Yes! His black costume! You’re probably wondering why, aren’t you? Why he’d put on his black costume! Well, the answer’s in Amazing Spider-Man #539! Read that and know why he’s putting on his black costume!,” creating this expectation that the issue would – at least in part – be devoted to some revelation as to why he’d return to the costume he’s been avoiding for almost 20 years.

And then the explanation for why he puts on the costume gets taken care of in three panels at the end of the book:

“I put this here a long time ago. I got rid of it in the first place because I thought it sent the wrong message. Maybe I kept it because there might come a day when I’d WANT to send that message. That the rules don’t apply anymore. That the gloves are off. That I can’t stop, can’t BE stopped, until I find the people responsible for shooting May.”

So, basically, he puts it on because he’s pissed and thinks that he looks more bad-ass wearing it. Plus, it’s slimming. But that doesn’t really work as a shocking reveal that has been hyped for months – it’s what’s more or less been expected by the audience. But that isn’t necessarily bad writing; doesn’t it just show that J. Michael Straczynski is writing the same character as the fans want to read? Maybe it’s bad hype because it created anticipation that the comic itself was never really meant to handle, if that makes sense. And that anticipation, that “There is an important reason why there’s a return to the black costume! And the return is so important itself that we’ll brand all the Spider-Man books with a ‘Back in Black’ logo to make people aware of it!” is so cynically manufactured, considering that we’re all intelligent readers who know that the real reason he’s wearing the costume again is because of Spider-Man 3 in a couple of months.

The other thing is, of course, that the internal reason doesn’t really make sense in the comic world. Sure, it’s a fairly generic “The gloves are off. No more Mister Nice Guy. Say Hello to my leetle friend” piece to show that everything is different and more serious for our hero now, and that genericness and lack of attention just shows off how unimportant the change in outfit really is to the actual plot, but in terms of *ahem* Spider-Man continuity, wasn’t the reason that he abandoned the costume not because “it sent the wrong message” but because Mary-Jane was attacked by Venom and the sight of the black costume traumatized her? And didn’t he, you know, destroy the costume, and not just hide it away in case he got grumpy later? I’m not a Spider-Man continuity expert – Matthew Craig, where are you? – but I feel that there’s definitely an emotional thread here that’s being ignored.

Anyway, the comic itself is Okay. We’ve seen all of this before – “Peter Parker is pushed too far by attacks on those he loves” is Stock Spider-Man Plot #23, after all – and there’s nothing to really distinguish this version from any of the others other than its own sense of importance (Aunt May has even died before, so her potential death doesn’t have the dramatic weight it’s probably supposed to). The choice of Kingpin as main villain continues to be odd in light of what happened a couple of months ago in Daredevil, necessitating “This story takes place before Daredevil #93” captions that are oddly nostalgic, and Ron Garney’s art is pleasantly readable. It’s fine, but instantly forgettable, which may not what Marvel was intending, really, but is better than a lot of the other big Marvel comics recently. Success through mediocrity – It’s the new Rock’n’Roll, apparently.

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